Sunday, March 27, 2011

Round and round...

I used to think a 'Bus Driver's Holiday' was a good thing. Like, he wasn't actually driving the bus so he would be able to enjoy the sights from the bus rather than concentrating on the traffic and counting out people's change. I thought 'Oh, how nice for the bus driver that on his holiday he gets to sit in a different seat and look out the window and see all the things he usually can't look at.'

But apparently not - apparently the bus driver would rather be anywhere else than on a bus. A Contiki tour maybe? Or Niagara Falls? Or maybe the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It's true that buses make me car (bus) sick so I guess I have no right to judge...

However, if the bus driver had these slices to eat I am sure he would be delighted wherever he ended up. I was totally blissed out by the butter/honey/almond combo when I had them with my (previously-mentioned-baking-hero-and-all-round-sweetie) friend Lou the other afternoon with a pot of fresh mint tea and some gossiping and possibly some looking at and laughing a lot...

p.s. Lou used wholemeal flour which made the base extra chewy and nice and really very good for you.

The bus driver's mother-in-law's almond honey slice

(from Epicure, The Age, May 3, 2005)

One of the perks of taking a bus up the Hume Highway is a certain bus driver on the Euroa line and the slices that her mother-in-law makes. This recipe, recently shared, has been making the rounds and it's a cracker.

The topping is more like a thick, nutty glaze than an icing - feel free to increase the quantity of topping by, say, 25 per cent if you want an extra-generous covering on the slice.



90g melted butter

1/2 cup (120g) firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup (145g) plain flour

1/2 cup (70g) packaged ground almonds

For the almond topping:

125g butter, chopped

1/4 cup (95g) honey

1 1/2 cups (200g) slivered almonds


· Preheat oven to 170C

· Combine base ingredients and mix well. If the base seems floury, add a little extra melted butter. Press into a greased, 18cm x 32cm lamington or slice tray (if you do not have a tray this size, use a smaller tray rather than a larger one. This is a fairly thin slice, and the mixture may not be enough to cover a larger tray).

· Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, but leave the oven on while the slice is cooling and make the almond topping:

Combine butter and honey in a small, heavy-based saucepan and stir over heat until butter is melted. Simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until mixture is a light caramel colour.

· Stir in nuts.

· Spread base with hot topping and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

· Cool in the tray.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Make it snappy. And cakey.

Oh wow. Years have passed. A lot has happened - I got quite sick and I had to change the way I eat. To stay well, I have changed the way I cook and bake too.

But yumminess MUST be had and a new food hero is David Lebovitz who has this brilliant life living and cooking in Paris and experimenting with many different ways of making sweet treats. From what I've tried, he gets it very right.

My friend Lou (another of my food heroes) introduced me to him via his exquisite Zucchini Cake. I have also made his Gingersnaps which are black-peppery and brilliant.

So this is a lazy post directing you to other links but, hey, I've been super-lax at blogging and I need to get my strength up gradually... I better eat some more cake and biscuits to refuel...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

School Daze

I went to my primary school fete today. Actually it has always been known as a 'Bazaar' as it's Princes Hill you know and we like to be fancy and do things differently of course...

I was hung over from karaoke last night (how does the craziness of karaoke happen? I went in determined not to drink much or sing but suddenly it was 2am and I was devastated that my duet of 'Summer Nights' had been cut short by a malfunctioning machine or possibly a punter with bleeding ears and an itchy finger) and felt decidedly old and tired walking into the school ground where I'd spent seven of my formative years.

Thankfully, this being Princes Hill and all, Tony from Carlton Espresso was making caffe lattes, there were organic sausages in white bread, mustard and tomato sauce (perhaps not organic *gasp*) and a cracking book stall. My friend Regan (lifelong, also of the same primary school) picked up a copy of The Sopranos cookbook for $10 - gold! Our childhood rivalry reared its comfortingly familiar head as I tried to persuade her to give it to me and then simply tried to steal it from her.

We wasted a heap of money trying to win a hamper of gourmet goodies on the spinning wheel, ate an excellent souvlaki (organic lamb, salad, tzatziki, flat bread, all dolled out by lovely Mums and Dads doing their bit) and had a can of European beer. The school choir sang, some girls did a dance to an inappropriately sexualised song and Regan and I reminisced about choreographing and performing a similarly innocent dance to a similarly inappropriately grown up 'Baby I Don't Care' by Transvision Vamp for the Grade Six concert in 1989. Ahhh, the memories. Then four floppy-haired boys, who to their immense credit had named themselves Elastic Band, did an excellent rendition of 'All Along the Watchtower' imbuing it with a gravely rock and roll vibe well beyond their years. And the bass player was wearing a little Ramones T-shirt - awww.

Sadly, I'd left my run for the cake stall a bit late and there was no lemon butter or chocolate crackles left. It was comforting to see the stalwarts remain the same though - scones, cupcakes, toffees, someone's mother's very healthy muesli slice that hasn't sold so well. There was a fabulous elderly - no, I shouldn't mince words - there was an incredibly OLD woman selling hundreds of jars of her home made produce at a cracking pace. She was frail and bent over almost in half but was turning an amazingly profitable trade and sending a fine supply of relish and pickles and marmalade into every local home. Bless.

As I walked back up Princes Hill to home and left the sounds of children hyped up on fairy floss, snow cones and dizzying rides behind me, I felt relieved that my primary school days are long behind me but glad I can visit once a year. And even drink beer there. But I'll have to make my own chocolate crackles.

4 cups rice bubbles

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 cup desiccated coconut

250g copha, chopped

3 tbsp cocoa

In a large bowl, mix the rice bubbles, icing sugar, cocoa & coconut.

Slowly melt the copha in a saucepan over a low heat.

Allow to cool slightly.

Add to rice bubbles mixture, stirring until well combined.

Spoon mixture into paper patty cases and refrigerate until firm.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Easy Being Green

Eat your greens! Actually, my Mum never said this because she's not bossy but I have my own bossy little voice in my head that tells me when I need to eat green vegetables. When I was small my parents invented a game specifically designed to get me to ingest broccoli (I was an only child and completely indulged - you got a problem with that?) and now I really like it. In fact, it might be my favourite green vegetable along with peas, lettuce and cucumber. And avocado if that counts.

So eating and enjoying my greens isn't a trial, just a matter of taking the time to buy really nice, fresh vegetables and making them into something yummy. At the moment this time has been lacking and I've had a few days when I got to the end and realised I ate bread, cake and fried potatoes and absolutely nothing green at all. Oops.

So with the hunting and gathering of fresh produce done yesterday and a blissfully unhurried day at home today, I made this soup and got enough greens into me tonight to feel delightfully virtuous and nurtured. I even have little single-serve containers of it in the freezer ready to take to work later in the week. I'm going to domestic goddess heaven.

Soupe au Pistou (that's French for soup with pesto, merci very much)
from delicious Magazine, September

2 tablespoons olive oil
30g unsalted butter
1 leek, pale part only, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used salt-reduced)
400g can flageolet or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2cm lengths
2 zucchinis, cut into 1cm cubes
500g baby broad beans (I couldn't find these fresh so used frozen and they were fine)
1 cup peas (also frozen which even Stephanie said is okay)
I also added a big handful of snow peas, trimmed and sliced

Pistou (apparently this one hails from Provence but you could also use pesto if you like)
2 garlic gloves
1 cup basil leaves (nearly a whole bunch if you pack 'em in tight)
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry frypan (don't burn them!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup (25g) grated parmesan cheese

For the pistou, place the garlic, basil and pine nuts in a mortar or food processor and pound or process to a coarse paste. Stir in olive oil and parmesan or add and process until blended. Pistou will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to one week (it might discolour a little but it's fine, chillax).

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan and cook leek over medium heat until soft -about 5 minutes. Add potato and stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 8-10 minutes until vegetables are tender (but don't overcook - you don't want mushy greens).

Serve in bowls with a big dollop of pistou on the top. It melts into the soup and adds a beautiful garlic-y, basil-y flavour.

* * *

Okay, so now that I've got that little sermon outta the way, here are some pictures of the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake I made for my dear friend Matty's 3rd birthday. The shredded coconut is green! I put it in a snap lock bag with green food colouring and voila! The copious amount of butter, sugar and lollies that make up the rest of the cake were definitely not green (except the green smarties and jelly beans of course, der).

After we'd sung the song and blown out the candles, Matty spent a long time contemplating which bit of cake he wanted. I had made complimentary 'garden themed' cupcakes (marshmallow and smartie flowers with mint leaves for greenery; butterflies from freckles, a jelly bean and tiny little banana sweets; freckle snails with piped on smiles, etc) and Matty inspected them all to see which one had the most sugar per square millimetre. In the end he went for the caterpillar's head.

(The cake and icing recipes I used are from The Women's Weekly Kids' Party Cakes book which is brilliant and a must for every home. It also contains the flower and butterfly cupcake designs. The V.H. Caterpillar was of my own design and I used a friand pan to get the oval shaped cakes...)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Must remember to blog!!

I will. Soon. I promise!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Flipping Out

I recently read a review of a book I really wish I'd written - Pancake: A Global History would have been really bloody delicious to research.  I picture author Ken Albala travelling the world making Homer Simpson 'ah-wrow ah-wrow ah-wrow' noises as he chomped his way through the finest, most scrumptious flat-pieces-of-fried-carb heaven the pans of the globe had to offer.  Yum.

Pancakes are something to get out of bed for.  They are especially good late morning, while wearing pyjamas and slippers, reading the paper and with some winter sunlight trickling across the table like maple syrup on to a stack of pancakes trickled with maple syrup...  

Tomorrow's public holiday is the perfect excuse to flip out.   There's a great pancake recipe on the side of buttermilk containers which have good 'b' things in them like buttermilk (well, obviously) and blueberries.  And there is also this recipe which is so easy that you'll be chowing down Homer style within 20 minutes.  ah-wrow, ah-wrow, ah-wrow...

Nigella's American Breakfast Pancakes 
from my favourite How to be a Domestic Goddess. 

225g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (sounds like a lot but makes 'em so fluffy!)
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
30 g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk
butter for frying

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz it baby!  Nigella says to leave the batter for 20 mins before frying but I was too hungry/greedy and didn't wait and they were still delicious.

Remember to cook pancake on one side until bubbles form and pop in the uncooked surface, then flip.  Don't be tempted to pump the heat too high though - the butter will get all burny and not nice.

Serve with lemon and sugar, or maple syrup or if you've got some blueberries (frozen ones are fine too) sprinkle them onto the uncooked side of the pancake straight after you pour it into the pan then cook and flip as usual.  Mmmmmm.  Make nice coffee and find that sunny spot...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grumpy Old Lady.

I am officially old and grumpy. I went into the city today (or 'into town' as my mother says) and was so irritated by the crowds and the noise and the general kerfuffle...! And this is Melbourne - pop. 4 million (and most of them way out east) - not a seething, pulsating, hubbub of a place like Manhattan or New Delhi or Shanghai. But I got so righteous and annoyed!

There were teenagers mooching about holding hands and getting in my way (bloody school holidays) and an insufferable 'new age' busker on Bourke St playing some amplified home-made thingee-me-bob which sounded like a cat being strangled only more creepy and depressing and tourists stopping dead in the middle of a moving line of human traffic and exclaiming 'is this Collins St?' when in the middle of Chinatown. ('Yeah, it's the Chinese bit of the Paris-end of Collins street Mister' I felt like snapping in my moody, 'I'm a local get out of my way' cross voice.)

Grumble, grumble, grumble. So, yeah, I'm old. And grouchy and not very helpful. So I came home and had a cup of tea and a 'Nutty Crunch' - the delightfully simple and traditional oat-based slice my mother has been baking for as long as I can remember. (I just realised that they don't actually have any nuts in them so the name's a furphy but let's not get bogged down in semantics - that might just get me grumbling again.) This is a recipe that is an oldie but a goodie.... and much sweeter than me today.

Nutty Crunches a la` Jenny L for ever and ever

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
250g butter, melted

and if you're feeling a bit racy: a large handful of currants or sultanas or even dried apricots, chopped, oh la la.

Mix dry ingredients (and dried fruit if using) in a mixing bowl. Pour in melted butter and combine well. Press into a greased, flat slice or lamington tin. Bake at 200C for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy with a cup of tea and a nice sit down.

P.S. If you're getting sick of the same song playing when you look at this blog, check out the little button on the left side of the 'window' on the tape graphic up there to the right.... you can jump through to other tracks! Voila!